Father tells of devastation after son's Afghanistan death

PUBLISHED: 11:36 30 September 2009 | UPDATED: 21:42 07 July 2010

A DEVASTATED father this week said that his family was still in shock, four months after the death of a Norfolk solider in an explosion in Afghanistan.

A DEVASTATED father this week said that his family was still in shock, four months after the death of a Norfolk solider in an explosion in Afghanistan.

Army cadets gathered to pay tribute to paratrooper Cpl Stephen Bolger with the dedication of a memorial to the former Cromer cadet who was killed whilst on operations in Helmand province on May 30.

His father, Mike Bolger, said his family was still struggling to come to terms with their loss after attending a service at the Norfolk Army Cadet Force training centre in Thetford.

The former Cromer town councillor said he and his wife, Denise, had been “touched” by the efforts of the cadets in creating a permanent memorial to his son.

Cpl Bolger, 30, who joined the army in 1998, was a member of the 1st Battalion of the Parachute Regiment, but was part of a special forces support unit when he was killed in action.

Mr Bolger said his son would have been “immensely proud” of the memorial garden to remember Norfolk and Suffolk's fallen soldiers.

“It has been awful. We have been in shock and we are still there and it is still very difficult to come to terms with. Because he was a career soldier, we did not see him that often, may be two or three times a year, and it is very difficult to realise that he is not coming home again,” he said.

Mr Bolger added that his son's three years as an army cadet in Cromer between 1994 and 1997 fuelled his son's ambition to join the forces.

“I think he enjoyed every minute of it. He enjoyed the excitement and challenge and loved the camaraderie.”

“He had an ability to relate to the Afghanis and it was in his desire to see the conflict resolved, but not necessarily by killing them. When we got his laptop back it was full of pictures of ordinary Afghan families and he engaged with the people,” he said.

Cpl Bolger is the fourth former cadet to be added as a plaque to the garden of remembrance in Thetford, which includes L/Cpl Alex Hawkins, 22, of Beetley, near Dereham, and Pte Aaron McClure, 19, of Ipswich, from the Royal Anglian Regiment who died in Afghanistan in 2007 and Royal Marine L/Cpl Ben Whatley, 20, from Tittleshall, near Fakenham, who was killed in Helmand on Christmas Eve.

Col David Hedges, commandant of the Norfolk Army Cadet Force, said it had been Cpl Bolger's “dream” to be an airborne soldier and he served his country with “dignity and courage.”

“He was doing a job he loved and enjoyed to the full. He was a good cadet and an even better para. We will miss him,” he said.

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